The social reality of working overseas in the ‘Chinese Internationalised School’: Exploring cliques as a precarity and insecurity coping strategy

Tristan BUNNELL, Adam POOLE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

The number of international schools hit the 6,000-mark in 2012, and the 13,000-mark in 2022. In spite of continuous growth and diversity of provision, paradoxically some literature continues to paint a largely negative sociological imagination, associating the arena with micro-politics, high turnover, and increasing precarity. At the same time, the social reality of working in the arena remains under-reported and under-theorised. The largest number of international schools are now in China, where two-thirds are of the ‘non-traditional’ type. Our paper focuses on the experiences of two expatriate teachers in that relatively new field. In order to address the questions of ‘how do teachers cope?’, and ‘what strategies do they adopt?’, our paper delves into the under-reported social reality of ‘cliques’. By adopting a ‘positive sociology’ lens of inquiry, we begin to address the role that cliques-formation might have in dealing with precarity and insecurity, especially that of ‘friendship precarity’ caused by constant transitions and short-term contracts. It can be seen that cliques offer a natural, quick, and practical solution to addressing precarity, helping over time to create resilience, and should not be viewed solely within a negative sociological imagination. Copyright © 2024 The Author(s).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-105
JournalJournal of Research in International Education
Volume23
Issue number1
Early online dateMar 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

Citation

Bunnell, T., & Poole, A. (2024). The social reality of working overseas in the ‘Chinese Internationalised School’: Exploring cliques as a precarity and insecurity coping strategy. Journal of Research in International Education, 23(1), 89-105. https://doi.org/10.1177/14752409241242092

Keywords

  • International schools
  • China
  • Expatriates
  • Insecurity
  • Cliques

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